Addicted To Oil: US Gasoline Consumption Is Higher Than Ever

August was the biggest month ever for U.S. gasoline consumption. People used a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day. That’s more than a gallon per day for each U.S. man, lady and child.

The brand new peak comes as a surprise to many. In 2012, power skilled Daniel Yergin said, “The U.S. has already reached what we can call`peak demand.” Many others agreed. The U.S. Department of Vitality forecast in 2012 that U.S. gasoline consumption would steadily decline for the foreseeable future.

Supply: Constructed by Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) using EIA data ‘Motor Gasoline, four-Week Averages.’

This seemed to make sense on the time. U.S. gasoline consumption had declined for five years in a row and, in 2012, was one million barrels per day beneath its July 2007 peak. Additionally in August 2012, President Obama had just introduced aggressive new gasoline economic system standards that may push common vehicle fuel economic system to 54 miles per gallon.

Fast ahead to 2016, and U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily 4 years in a row. We now have a new peak. This dramatic reversal has important consequences for petroleum markets, the atmosphere and the U.S. economic system.

How did we get here? There were a number of factors, together with the the great Recession and a spike in gasoline costs at the top of the final decade, that are unlikely to be repeated any time soon. But it should come as no shock. With incomes growing again and low gasoline prices, Individuals are back to buying massive vehicles and driving extra miles than ever earlier than.

The good Recession

The slowdown in U.S. gasoline consumption between 2007 and 2012 occurred throughout the worst world recession since World Battle II. The Nationwide Bureau of Financial Research dates the great Recession as beginning December 2007, precisely at first of the slowdown in gasoline consumption. The financial system remained anemic, with unemployment above 7 % through 2013, nearly when gasoline consumption started to extend once more.

Economists have proven in dozens of research that there is a sturdy constructive relationship between income and gasoline consumption – when people have more to spend, gasoline usage goes up. During the nice Recession, Individuals traded of their autos for more gas-efficient models, and drove fewer miles. However now, as incomes are growing once more, Individuals are shopping for bigger vehicles and trucks with bigger engines, and driving extra total miles.

Gasoline costs

The opposite essential clarification is gasoline costs. Throughout the primary half of 2008, gasoline prices increased sharply. It is tough to remember now, but U.S. gasoline prices peaked through the summer season of 2008 above US$4.00 gallon, pushed by crude oil prices that had topped out above $140/barrel.

Gasoline costs in Washington D.C. prime $four a gallon in 2008.
brownpau/flickr, CC BY


These $four.00+ prices were brief-lived, however gasoline prices nonetheless remained steep during most of 2010 to 2014, before falling sharply throughout 2014. Certainly, it was these excessive prices that contributed to the lower in U.S. gasoline consumption between 2007 and 2012. Demand curves, after all, do slope down. Economists have shown that People are getting much less delicate to gasoline costs, but there is still a powerful negative relationship between prices and gasoline consumption.

Moreover, since gasoline prices plummeted in the previous couple of months of 2014, Individuals have been buying gasoline like crazy. Last 12 months was the largest 12 months ever for U.S. automobile sales, with trucks and SUVs leading the cost. This summer time People took to the roads in record numbers. The U.S. average retail worth for gasoline was $2.24 per gallon on August 29, 2016, the lowest Labor Day worth in 12 years. No marvel People are driving more.

Can fuel financial system standards flip the tide?

It’s exhausting to make predictions. Still, in retrospect, it appears clear that the years of the nice Recession were extremely unusual. For many years U.S. gasoline consumption has gone up and up – driven by rising incomes – and it appears that we are now very much back on that path.

This all illustrates the deep problem of lowering fossil fuel use in transportation. U.S. electricity generation, in contrast, has turn out to be significantly greener over this same interval, with huge declines in U.S. coal consumption. Lowering gasoline consumption is harder, nevertheless. The accessible substitutes, such as electric automobiles and biofuels, are expensive and not essentially much less carbon-intensive. For instance, electric autos can truly increase general carbon emissions in states with principally coal-fired electricity.

How we roll: Individuals are buying less gasoline-efficient autos, equivalent to SUVs, as gasoline prices go down.
gas pump from

Can new fuel economic system standards turn the tide? Maybe, however the new “footprint”-based mostly guidelines are yielding smaller gasoline financial system positive aspects than was anticipated. With the new guidelines, the gas economic system goal for each automobile is determined by its general measurement (i.e., its “footprint”); so as Americans have bought more trucks, SUVs and different large vehicles, this relaxes the overall stringency of the standard. So, yes, fuel economic system has improved, however a lot less than it would have with out this mechanism.

Also, automakers are pushing back exhausting, arguing that low gasoline costs make the standards too arduous to satisfy. Some lawmakers have raised similar considerations. The EPA’s remark window for the standards’ midterm review ends Sept. 26, so we are going to quickly have a better idea what the requirements will appear like shifting ahead.

No matter what happens, fuel financial system requirements have a fatal flaw that fundamentally limits their effectiveness. They can improve gasoline economy, however they don’t increase the price per mile of driving. People will drive 3.2 trillion miles in 2016, extra miles than ever before. Why wouldn’t we? Gasoline is low-cost.

Lucas Davis, Affiliate Professor, University of California, Berkeley

This text was originally revealed on The Conversation. Read the original article.